by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Buddha’s Ascension to Tavatimsa contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Sixth Vassa at Mount Makula. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
The Buddha looked into the past, while still in the act of demonstrating the miracles, as to where His predecessors usually observed vassa after demonstrating the miracles, and eventually perceived that “they ascended to Tāvatiṃsa to observe vassa and to preach the Abhidhamma to the celestial being who were their respective mother in their respective previous existence.” Whereupon, He decided to ascend to Tāvatiṃsa, and as soon as He raised His right leg, the peak of Mount Yugando, with a height of forty-two thousand yojanas moved to place its peak under the soles of His right foot, spontaneously. When the left foot was lifted, the summit of Mount Mahā Meru, with a height of eighty-four thousand yojanas, came underneath His left foot automatically.
(NB. No one had seen the summits of Yugando and Mahā Meru bending to place themselves beneath the feet of the Buddha; nor did He take unseemly strides to reach Tāvatiṃsa. This is purely a matter of supernormal power, exclusively the domain of Fully Self-Enlightened Buddhas and beyond all other beings to conceive.)
The Buddha had thus reached Tāvatiṃsa with only two steps. Tāvatiṃsa is on top of Mount Meru, and to reach its summit is to reach Tāvatiṃsa itself.
Sakka’s Erroneous Idea
As soon as Sakka saw the Buddha, he mistakenly thought: “The Buddha might take up residence on the emerald slab to observe vassa and devas and Brahmās would benefit by it. In such a case, no one would even have the chance of touching the emerald slab for the duration of the vassa. The emerald slab is of enormous size, being sixty yojanas in length by fifty yojanas in breadth by fifteen yojanas in height. When the Buddha resides on it for the whole vassa, it would resemble the scene of a sparrow resting on a big flat tray, leaving a good amount of space vacant.
Having read the thought of Sakka, the Buddha dropped His double stitched robe on the slab which became completely covered by it. Sakka was still of the idea ‘that a good amount of space would still be wasted after the Buddha had sat on it, because even though the robe covered the whole slab of emerald, the Buddha’s person would occupy only a small space.’ The Buddha knew what was going on in the mind of Sakka and like a mahāthera sitting on a small stool and observing ascetic practice, He sat cross-legged on the emerald slab and occupied the whole slab with no space left.
Sakka realised his mistakes and blamed himself for not knowing his own limitations: “What kind of person, the Buddha is? We can never fully comprehend nor can we discern to the full the magnitude of His glorious attributes. Even one such as the Buddha, replete with attributes beyond our mind’s power to conceive, I have conceived erroneous thoughts and ideas!” In open acknowledgment of his wrong, he paid obeisance with deep devotion and profound respect to the Buddha.
Many People cried and lamented as The Buddha went out of View
In the human world, the people were struck with wonder when the Buddha suddenly went out of view. While they were witnessing the marvellous feat of miracles, as though hundreds of thousands of suns and moons had set and disappeared and so they discussed as to the cause of the disappearance of the Buddha among themselves.
The noblest leader of the three worlds, most Exalted and renowned Buddha, the Omniscient, has gone out of view even now while we were witnessing the great feat of miracles! We wonder if He has retreated far from this clamorous crowd to a place of seclusion like the Cittakuti mountain, or to the silver mountain of Kelasa or to Yugandhara?
They wept and uttered the above stanza as they were discussing among themselves.
There were other people who opined that “the Buddhas delight to dwell in seclusion. The Buddha must have reflected: ‘In spite of liking seclusion, I have gone and exhibited the strange and wonderful feat of miracles to this great multitude’, and feeling embarrassed had retreated to a certain place of seclusion where no one could see him.”
They wept and uttered the following stanza:
Now that the Omniscient Buddha has retreated to a place of solitude where disturbances of the five senses are calmed, He will never again return to this frenetic human world, full of worldly temptations of the five human senses. The Noblest Leader of the three worlds, Most Exalted and renowned Buddha, the Omniscient has gone out of view, even while we were worshipping.
People asked the honourable Mahā Moggallāna as to the present residence of the Buddha. Although he knew that the Buddha was in Tāvatiṃsa, he directed them to Mahāthera
Anuruddha for an answer so that credit might be given to him. When they asked the Mahāthera, they were told that the Buddha had taken up residence on the throne of Sakka, under the Kathit tree (Erythria Indica) in Tāvatiṃsa, preaching the Abhidhamma Piṭaka to the celestial devas headed by a deva, who was the mother of the Buddha in his previous existence. When asked about the return to earth of the Buddha, they were told that He would return on the Mahā Pavāraṇa day (traditional assembly of Sangha at the end of vassa) which falls on the full moon day of Thadingyut (Assayujo), and after preaching the Abhidhamma Piṭaka throughout the vassa.
These people decided: “We will not leave without paying homage to the Buddha,” and so they erected temporary pavilions with leaves and shrubs in that locality. The sky itself served as the roof and mother earth absorbed all refuse extirpated by them, and the whole area was in a sanitary condition.
The Buddha had given prior instructions to the Venerable Moggallāna to preach to these people, and the lay devotee, Cula Anāthapiṇḍika, was charged with the responsibility of providing them with food. He provided them with broth, food, sweet meats, beetle tobacco, tea-leaves, sweet scents, flowers clothing and all articles of human use, with nothing wanting. As arranged in anticipation, Mahā Moggallāna preached them throughout the period of vassa.
Devas and Brahmas from Ten Thousand World Systems gathered around The Buddha
Devas and Brahmās from ten thousand world-systems gathered around the Buddha to hear the teaching of the Abhidhamma from the Throne of Sakka, under the Erythrina lndica tree in the celestial world of Tāvatiṃsa. There was no one among the devas and Brahmās who surpassed Buddha in appearance; indeed He surpassed all others in comeliness.
When the most gracious and glorious Buddha sat on the throne of Sakka, Santusitta Deva descended from Tusitā plane and sat respectfully in front and on the side close to Him. He was the mother of the Buddha in his previous existence.